Philip Scott-Wallace is one of the stars of new Bollywood epic Ajintha. He took the time to answer a few interview questions about the project, the team and what we can do to get behind the film and help to secure a UK release.
Hello hello, I’m very well thanks. How you doing Kieran?
I’m good thanks! So… What can you tell us about Ajintha?
Ajintha is an epic true love story that has until now been overlooked in both British and Indian history. It focuses on the relationship between Major Robert Gill (who I play), a soldier come painter in the Madras 44th Infantry, and a local tribal girl called Paro. The two characters are brought together by the wonder that is the Ajanta Caves, carved 2000 years previous by Buddhist Monks. The film actually covers a large part of history, opening with the discovery of the caves by Captain John Smith in 1819, then jumping forward to 1844 when Robert Gill arrives on a commission to copy the cave paintings for an exhibition at the Crystal Palace in London built by Queen Victoria for her husband Albert. We then follow Gill’s struggle to complete his task aided by Paro who sees it as her duty to Lord Buddha to spread the messages of Buddhism throughout the world. Although Gill and Paro do not speak the same language they begin to understand each other without words and their affection for each other grows but this soon unsettles the local villagers and Gill begins to realise he must not only struggle to complete the paintings but also to understand the culture. The film covers religion, society, love and art and so hopefully there is something for everyone!
Were you a fan of Bollywood films before being cast?
Quite shamefully, I hadn’t watched a single Bollywood movie before going out to India but as soon as I finished filming I sat with a friend and a few beers and polished off three films in one afternoon. Indian cinema is absolutely fantastic. I would urge everyone to watch a film called 3 Idiots. Absolutely mind blowing.
I arrived at Mumbai airport at 1am on 28th December, was in bed at 2.30am, up at 7am, in front of all the cast by 7.30am, rehearsing scenes on set at 8am. I didn’t really have time to be intimidated. Since this is my first film ever, there was a bit of apprehension going into the shoot but the good thing about having well known actors around you is that they are experienced and you learn from them. Sonalee, who played Paro, soon became a friend and we chatted about the scenes and about the different styles of acting you find in Indian cinema. All the actors were always willing to give advice or answer questions so it soon became a very comfortable environment to work in.
Nitin Desai is one of the most respected Art Directors and Production Designers in Bollywood but this was his first film as Director how was it being a part of his vision?
Working with Nitin Desai was definitely an experience. I have never known a man to live, eat and breathe a project without rest. We worked insane hours but, as a tutor at LAMDA always said, ‘the learning is in the doing’, so I wasn’t complaining about having as much practise in front of camera as possible. Though it was his first film as a director he has been in the business many years. He knew what he wanted and was especially gifted at appreciating the artistic side of the film, as that is his background. I think we learned a huge amount together and went on an awesome journey of discovery with it being my first film as well.
How was it being part of a film of this scale?
Incredible. Firstly filming on location was breathtaking. If you haven’t visited the Ajanta Caves, GO! They are stupendous. But then Nitin showed me the sets he had built – an actual village, a replica of one of the caves and a full on palace which was Gill’s home. I think my mouth hung open for a week. I am very lucky to have had the opportunity to work on such a huge production and I just hope people enjoy what we have made but more importantly I hope people go and rediscover Ajanta. I genuinely think it is a wonder of the world.
Would you like to work in India again?
I would absolutely love to work in India again. Not sure how many white male hero roles are going there but if the right script came along then I’d be there in a flash. Nothing is impossible there and film is the lifeblood of the nation. Its the place to be.
How widely can the film be seen in the UK and when will it be available on DVD?
Unfortunately it doesn’t look like the film will have a UK release but I am certain the DVD will reach these shores. We are investigating the possibility of getting it into cinemas here and something that would help is if people watch the trailer on youtube and visit the website - www.ajinthathefilm.com.
Whats next for you?
Good question! No, seriously, I have filmed a tv pilot which is in post production and hopefully will be picked up and I have made some lovely friends and contacts from making this film and am having meetings for other film roles but nothing confirmed yet. I’ll keep you posted and all your guys can follow me @pscottwallace or on facebook.
Finally…I can’t believe you didn’t ask about the beard!
The beard is bloody epic!!!!
The Good Review would like to say a massive thank you to Phil for his time, and wish him and the film all the very best. Here are some of the links he mentioned in the interview if you want to help this project or keep in touch about his future work: